Pause & Adore
As we journey through this life there are many things we rightly ask God for – help, wisdom, healing and guidance. God cares about the details of our lives. He reveals himself as our Heavenly Father who cares. And so we should bring all our requests, needs and worries to Him in prayer.
And yet, there is an important sense in which prayers of adoration are more fundamental to the Christian life. There are many examples in scripture of the saints praying to God in a manner that is laden with adoring worship – Moses, David, Solomon, Isaiah – as well as the apostles Paul, John and others – all prayed prayers of adoration to God. Such prayers adore God for who and what he is. Such prayers are offered today by angels (Isa. 6) and will be offered by all in heaven.
Theologians have taken care to explain why prayers of adoration to God are so important. Augustine argued that in a sense God is the only thing that we ‘enjoy’ while all else in creation is ‘used.’ He did not mean by this that we do not take pleasure in anything other than God – he meant that God is so glorious and magnificent that all other pleasures should be traced back to and referred to him. In that sense, everything in creation is a means, or is ‘used’ in worship of God. As Augustine wrote of friendship – ‘I do not love my friend in himself- but with Christ in him or that Christ may be in him.’ All the things we value in life ought to be traced back to God – he created them, he gives them, he sustains them. Giving God praise ought to take precedence over petitioning him for help amidst the things he made.
Jonathan Edwards pondered in ‘Religious Affections’ how a person may be reassured that their affections evidence genuine conversion to Christ. He concluded after patient reflection that thanks for good things God does for us – even saving us from hell – was not at the heart of genuine right relationship with God. Thankfulness to God for saving us from hell could arise from self-love and the related feelings can be fabricated by satan. The genuine convert will of course be thankful for salvation – but Edwards was aware that God doing things for us is secondary to who God is. So Edwards concluded that the only genuine, impossible to fake, affection towards God, is a loving adoration of God for who He is in himself- without any care towards any good he may do for us. In other words, adoration of who God is precedes asking him to act for us.
As we pray to God, let us take some time to pause asking and enjoy adoring.
Rev. Dr. Peter Sanlon is rector of Emmanuel Anglican Church, Tunbridge Wells: www.emmanuelanglican.uk